CRAIG CONLEY (Prof. Oddfellow) is recognized by Encarta as “America’s most creative and diligent scholar of letters, words and punctuation.” He has been called a “language fanatic” by Page Six gossip columnist Cindy Adams, a “cult hero” by Publisher’s Weekly, and “a true Renaissance man of the modern era, diving headfirst into comprehensive, open-minded study of realms obscured or merely obscure” by Clint Marsh. An eccentric scholar, Conley’s ideas are often decades ahead of their time. He invented the concept of the “virtual pet” in 1980, fifteen years before the debut of the popular “Tamagotchi” in Japan. His virtual pet, actually a rare flower, still thrives and has reached an incomprehensible size. Conley’s website is OneLetterWords.com.
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A Fine Line Between...
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Always Remember
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Apropos of Nothing
Book of Whispers
Call it a Hunch
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Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up?
Disguised as a Christmas Tree
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Everybody's Doing This Now
Forgotten Wisdom
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Go Out in a Blaze of Glory
Hindpsych: Erstwhile Conjectures by the Sometime Augur of Yore
How to Believe in Your Elf
I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought
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It's Really Happening
Last Dustbunny in the Netherlands
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The Right Word
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A Turkish Delight of musings on languages, deflations of metaphysics, vauntings of arcana, and great visual humor.
July 31, 2013

Do-Re-Midi (permalink)
Back in the mid-noughties, we wrote a song about the single thing one-letter words spell.  Here's Ken Clinger's 1920's take on it:

http://kenclinger.bandcamp.com/track/one-letter-words-martian-1920s-mix
> read more from Do-Re-Midi . . .
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This May Surprise You (permalink)
The imaginary yet highly influential theologian Franz Bibfeldt responded sharply to Kierkegaard's Either/Or with a treatise entitled Both/And.

(Via Futility Closet.)
> read more from This May Surprise You . . .
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Restoring the Lost Sense (permalink)
An illustration from an 1895 issue of Punch magazine.
[Inexplicable images from generations ago invite us to restore the lost sense of immediacy.  We follow the founder of the Theater of Spontaneity, Jacob Moreno, who proposed stringing together "now and then flashes" to unfetter illusion and let imagination run free.  The images we have collected for this series came at a tremendous price, which we explained previously.]
> read more from Restoring the Lost Sense . . .
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A Fine Line Between... (permalink)
"It is a very fine line between what's real and what's not."
Ronda L. Brulotte, Between Art and Artifact (2012)
A printed collection of A Fine Line Between... is now available from Amazon.com.
> read more from A Fine Line Between... . . .
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July 30, 2013

I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought (permalink)

"The Sufferer" by Kaj B.
Good news: it ain't so bad in Hell — the damned don't even want to escape — and we can offer empirical proof: folks on earth* seek longevity.

*Recall the first noble truth of Buddhism: life means suffering.
> read more from I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought . . .
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I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought (permalink)
From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook:

"To read is to risk making one's self vulnerable, to risk encountering what Wayne Booth has called 'the otherness that bites.'" —Megan O'Neill, Popular Culture (2001)

> read more from I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought . . .
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Restoring the Lost Sense (permalink)
Here's an ice cube in hell, from a 1906 issue of Puck magazine.  Speaking of which, what exactly are a snowball's chances in hell?  See A Snowball's Chance in Hell.
[Inexplicable images from generations ago invite us to restore the lost sense of immediacy.  We follow the founder of the Theater of Spontaneity, Jacob Moreno, who proposed stringing together "now and then flashes" to unfetter illusion and let imagination run free.  The images we have collected for this series came at a tremendous price, which we explained previously.]
> read more from Restoring the Lost Sense . . .
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July 29, 2013

Presumptive Conundrums (permalink)
Speaking of "you do the math," did we ever mention that Word Ways once claimed our scholarship was "mathematically impossible"?  That may very well constitute what our friend Jonathan calls a Retroactive Lifetime Goal.  Word Ways said: "This 232-page book claims that one thousand one-letter words exist.  Since there are only 26 letters, this is mathematically impossible."
> read more from Presumptive Conundrums . . .
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Rhetorical Questions, Answered! (permalink)
"Darrin, you keep asking and answering your own questions": a still from the unquestionably classic Bewitched.
> read more from Rhetorical Questions, Answered! . . .
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Restoring the Lost Sense (permalink)
Playing a game of mixed chance and skill with Nature.  An illustration from an 1894 issue of Punch magazine.  The caption reads: "A good time coming!"
[Inexplicable images from generations ago invite us to restore the lost sense of immediacy.  We follow the founder of the Theater of Spontaneity, Jacob Moreno, who proposed stringing together "now and then flashes" to unfetter illusion and let imagination run free.  The images we have collected for this series came at a tremendous price, which we explained previously.]
> read more from Restoring the Lost Sense . . .
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The Only Certainty (permalink)
"The only certainty was the money."
Christopher Farnsworth, The President's Vampire (2011)

Money whirlpool by Patrick Hoesly.
> read more from The Only Certainty . . .
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July 28, 2013

Restoring the Lost Sense (permalink)
An illustration from a 1908 issue of Life magazine.  The caption reads: "Lily of the valley."
[Inexplicable images from generations ago invite us to restore the lost sense of immediacy.  We follow the founder of the Theater of Spontaneity, Jacob Moreno, who proposed stringing together "now and then flashes" to unfetter illusion and let imagination run free.  The images we have collected for this series came at a tremendous price, which we explained previously.]
> read more from Restoring the Lost Sense . . .
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July 27, 2013

The Right Word (permalink)

Thanks to Mental Floss for highlighting our dictionary of improbable words as one of six alternative references one's bookshelf needs. Chris Stokel-Walker writes:

How many words do you know that are either all consonants or all vowels? Craig Conley trawled the English language and found 4000 examples gathered together in Wye’s Dictionary of Improbable Words. From B-Z (for the consonant-only section, beginning with "b’chtsch”) and A,E,I,O,U and Y (for the vowel-only section, starting with "a i-eee ai-eeee”), there’s proof that sometimes our language doesn’t quite make sense, and that it’s possible to form words without some of our alphabet’s most important letters.


Read the full text here: http://mentalfloss.com/article/51779/6-alternative-dictionaries-your-bookshelf-needs#ixzz2aEHjd8bd

> read more from The Right Word . . .
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Restoring the Lost Sense (permalink)
Risk comes with the territory — a rock monster. An illustration from an 1860 issue of Punch magazine.
[Inexplicable images from generations ago invite us to restore the lost sense of immediacy.  We follow the founder of the Theater of Spontaneity, Jacob Moreno, who proposed stringing together "now and then flashes" to unfetter illusion and let imagination run free.  The images we have collected for this series came at a tremendous price, which we explained previously.]
> read more from Restoring the Lost Sense . . .
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This May Surprise You (permalink)
"You may be quite surprised with the possibilities which you can put together."
Robert L. VanDeMark, Inventory Control Techniques (1981)
> read more from This May Surprise You . . .
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July 26, 2013

Images Moving Through Time (permalink)
One of our best-kept secrets: the other half of our daily blogging is over at our

Borgesian Circulating Depository.

> read more from Images Moving Through Time . . .
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Presumptive Conundrums (permalink)
The child ponders, "Shall I divide?"  Indeed:

"Cell division begins in a resting or preparatory state." —The Human Genome: A User's Guide

From Arthur's Home Magazine, 1871.
* Learn more about Presumptive Conundrums at Amazon.com.
> read more from Presumptive Conundrums . . .
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Everybody's Doing This Now (permalink)
An illustration from an 1895 issue of Punch magazine.
> read more from Everybody's Doing This Now . . .
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Restoring the Lost Sense (permalink)
An illustration from a 1902 edition of Vaught's Practical Character Reader.  The caption reads: "Holy smoke.  Self explanatory."

[Inexplicable images from generations ago invite us to restore the lost sense of immediacy.  We follow the founder of the Theater of Spontaneity, Jacob Moreno, who proposed stringing together "now and then flashes" to unfetter illusion and let imagination run free.  The images we have collected for this series came at a tremendous price, which we explained previously.]
> read more from Restoring the Lost Sense . . .
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July 25, 2013

Yesterday's Weather (permalink)
It's raining cats, if not dogs.  The caption reads: "I saw many myriads of spectral kitten forms and unsubstantial egg-shapes."  From an 1895 issue of Punch.
*Inspired by the world's only accurate meteorological report, "Yesterday's Weather," as seen on Check It Out.
> read more from Yesterday's Weather . . .
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Restoring the Lost Sense (permalink)
An illustration from a 1906 issue of Puck magazine.  The caption reads: "Just Reversed: The Moon in the Man."
[Inexplicable images from generations ago invite us to restore the lost sense of immediacy.  We follow the founder of the Theater of Spontaneity, Jacob Moreno, who proposed stringing together "now and then flashes" to unfetter illusion and let imagination run free.  The images we have collected for this series came at a tremendous price, which we explained previously.]
> read more from Restoring the Lost Sense . . .
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Two Sides / Same Coin (permalink)
Rebellion and compliance are two sides of the same coin.
Nicholas Lore, The Pathfinder (2012)

Spinning coin by Connie Smith.
* Inspired by Jeff Hawkins.
> read more from Two Sides / Same Coin . . .
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July 24, 2013

Precursors (permalink)
The mysterious HBG2, the genius responsible for Long-Forgotten (ruminations and revelations concerning the history and artistry of Disney's Haunted Mansion) offers a glorious forerunner to Fantasia's glamorous hippos.  Compare the Disney version of a hippo with a powder puff and hand mirror to that in a 1914 issue of Puck.  [Thanks, HBG2!]


The caption reads, "After all, beauty is only skin deep!"
> read more from Precursors . . .
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Restoring the Lost Sense (permalink)
An illustration from a 1901 issue of Punch magazine.  The caption reads: "The good fairy Electra of the continuous current banishes the demon King Sulphur."

[Inexplicable images from generations ago invite us to restore the lost sense of immediacy.  We follow the founder of the Theater of Spontaneity, Jacob Moreno, who proposed stringing together "now and then flashes" to unfetter illusion and let imagination run free.  The images we have collected for this series came at a tremendous price, which we explained previously.]
> read more from Restoring the Lost Sense . . .
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Semicolon's Dream Journal (permalink)
> read more from Semicolon's Dream Journal . . .
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July 23, 2013

Precursors (permalink)
We found a precursor to this great quip by Jonathan Caws-Elwitt: "Genius is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent eavesdropping location."  The illustration appears in The Critic, 1898.  The caption reads, "[William Makepeace] Thackeray and Douglas Jerrold evesdropping."
> read more from Precursors . . .
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Forgotten Wisdom (permalink)
[Note that we pre-blogged this item months and months ago; it has nothing to do with the birth of the new royal heir in Great Britain.]

From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook:

Printed collections of Forgotten Wisdom diagrams are available: Volume I from Mindful Greetings and Volumes II, III and IV from Amazon.  Selected posters are also available via Zazzle.
> read more from Forgotten Wisdom . . .
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Restoring the Lost Sense (permalink)
Confronting the 23 Enigma: an illustration from a 1906 issue of Puck magazine.  The caption reads: "Shadows."
[Inexplicable images from generations ago invite us to restore the lost sense of immediacy.  We follow the founder of the Theater of Spontaneity, Jacob Moreno, who proposed stringing together "now and then flashes" to unfetter illusion and let imagination run free.  The images we have collected for this series came at a tremendous price, which we explained previously.]
> read more from Restoring the Lost Sense . . .
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Unicorns (permalink)

Unicorn chess pieces by Indigo-Ocean.
We learn from Piers Anthony that there is no reason a unicorn can't play chess if she wishes (Unicorn Point).
> read more from Unicorns . . .
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July 22, 2013

Someone Should Write a Book on ... (permalink)
"Write a novel in which the text is actually incredibly small barbed wire embedded in the page.  Make sure this novel is at least a thousand pages long and is set in a very finical font with lots of curlicues.  The reader's fingers should repeatedly get cut while reading/handling this novel, and by the time the reader is done the book should have drunk its fill of blood." —William Keckler
> read more from Someone Should Write a Book on ... . . .
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Restoring the Lost Sense (permalink)
An illustration from an 1853 issue of Punch magazine.
[Inexplicable images from generations ago invite us to restore the lost sense of immediacy.  We follow the founder of the Theater of Spontaneity, Jacob Moreno, who proposed stringing together "now and then flashes" to unfetter illusion and let imagination run free.  The images we have collected for this series came at a tremendous price, which we explained previously.]
> read more from Restoring the Lost Sense . . .
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The Only Certainty (permalink)

Photo by Sam Liau.
"There is no absolute way to know if the dollar will go up, down or sideways—it may well do all of these things. The only certainty is that it will move." —Tim Weithers, Foreign Exchange (2011)
> read more from The Only Certainty . . .
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July 21, 2013

I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought (permalink)

Photo by eatmorechips.
From our former outpost at Twitter:

Physics is finally doubting the expanding universe theory. But is fanatical Science ready to give up its beloved Big Bang creation myth?
> read more from I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought . . .
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Restoring the Lost Sense (permalink)
An illustration from an 1842 issue of Punch magazine.
[Inexplicable images from generations ago invite us to restore the lost sense of immediacy.  We follow the founder of the Theater of Spontaneity, Jacob Moreno, who proposed stringing together "now and then flashes" to unfetter illusion and let imagination run free.  The images we have collected for this series came at a tremendous price, which we explained previously.]
> read more from Restoring the Lost Sense . . .
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Semicolon Moons (permalink)

A semicolon moon/Venus by Daniel Arndt.
Inspired by Gary Barwin.
> read more from Semicolon Moons . . .
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July 20, 2013

Precursors (permalink)
Here's a precursor to the Death Star from Star Wars, which appears in The Quiver, 1897.
> read more from Precursors . . .
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Restoring the Lost Sense (permalink)
An illustration from an 1858 issue of Punch magazine.
[Inexplicable images from generations ago invite us to restore the lost sense of immediacy.  We follow the founder of the Theater of Spontaneity, Jacob Moreno, who proposed stringing together "now and then flashes" to unfetter illusion and let imagination run free.  The images we have collected for this series came at a tremendous price, which we explained previously.]
> read more from Restoring the Lost Sense . . .
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Always Remember (permalink)

Illustration by honourableghoul.
"You should always remember that nobody can own your soul. At most, they can only be allowed to repeatedly ram a bumper car into it until it finally stops working." —William Keckler
> read more from Always Remember . . .
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July 19, 2013

Staring at the Sun (permalink)
Here's a surprising bit of Hermeticism from Arthur's Illustrated Home Magazine, 1885.  A lady faces the setting sun and transmits a thought-message toward the light as she touches a dog's head.  The Greek god Hermes (a.k.a. the Roman Mercury and the Egyptian Thoth) is a solar messenger.  The Egyptians of course represented him with a dog's head.

The caption reads, "She stood at the window looking westward at the setting sun, her thoughts borne outward toward its glory, her hand resting on the head of Duke."
> read more from Staring at the Sun . . .
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This May Surprise You (permalink)
"If you say to yourself as you walk through town 'I am so lovely' you may be quite surprised how your whole aura changes to attract other people to you."
Jenni Adams, Stress: A New Positive Approach (1989)
> read more from This May Surprise You . . .
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Staring Into the Depths (permalink)
An illustration from a 1904 issue of Harper's magazine.  The caption reads: "Her eyes seemed to see a far image of struggling souls."
[The images we have collected for this series came at a tremendous price, which we explained previously.]
> read more from Staring Into the Depths . . .
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July 18, 2013

I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought (permalink)
From our former outpost at Twitter (where we sometimes drop the majestic plural or Victorian "we" so as to save a character):

The other day someone asked me how to find like-minded people. Considering that Google has 9 million results on that, I felt flattered.
> read more from I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought . . .
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This May Surprise You (permalink)
Close reading may not always be an act of deicide, but it destroys the omniscient narrator.  "[A] close reading betrays [the omniscient narrator's] lack of omniscience even in circumstances that suggest some kind of extratextual knowledge" (John C. Weiger, In the Margins of Cervantes, 2008, p. 216).
> read more from This May Surprise You . . .
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Restoring the Lost Sense (permalink)
An illustration from an 1868 issue of Punch magazine.  The caption reads: "A cross-looking ultra ritualist."
[Inexplicable images from generations ago invite us to restore the lost sense of immediacy.  We follow the founder of the Theater of Spontaneity, Jacob Moreno, who proposed stringing together "now and then flashes" to unfetter illusion and let imagination run free.  The images we have collected for this series came at a tremendous price, which we explained previously.]
> read more from Restoring the Lost Sense . . .
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Your Ship Will Come In (permalink)

Setting sails from Boothbay Harbor, Maine (1942).
* Our printed collection of vintage nautical postcards is entitled Your Ship Will Come In and is available from Amazon.com.
> read more from Your Ship Will Come In . . .
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July 17, 2013

Someone Should Write a Book on ... (permalink)
"Write a novel titled Ghost Co-Op.  Actually, I feel a novel with this title should 'write itself.'"
William Keckler
> read more from Someone Should Write a Book on ... . . .
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Restoring the Lost Sense (permalink)
An illustration from a 1901 issue of Punch magazine.
[Inexplicable images from generations ago invite us to restore the lost sense of immediacy.  We follow the founder of the Theater of Spontaneity, Jacob Moreno, who proposed stringing together "now and then flashes" to unfetter illusion and let imagination run free.  The images we have collected for this series came at a tremendous price, which we explained previously.]
> read more from Restoring the Lost Sense . . .
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Rhetorical Questions, Answered! (permalink)
Q: What, then, is truth?

A: A mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms — in short, a sum of human relations, which have been enhanced, transposed, and embellished poetically and rhetorically, and which after long use seem firm, canonical, and obligatory to a people.  (Nietzsche, "On Truths and Lies in the Extra-Moral Sense," 1874).
> read more from Rhetorical Questions, Answered! . . .
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July 16, 2013

Apropos of Nothing (permalink)

photo by Cobalt 123
"Apropos nothing. How blue is your ray?"
Ran de Gota
> read more from Apropos of Nothing . . .
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Precursors (permalink)
Here's a precursor to The Man Who Fell to Earth, from an 1895 issue of The Quiver.  The caption reads, "He found himself on Mother Earth."
> read more from Precursors . . .
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The Right Word (permalink)
The right word is witch in the classic sitcom Bewitched.
> read more from The Right Word . . .
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I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought (permalink)
"Transparency is so yesterday, and opacity so everyday, but [translucency] remains intriguingly unexplored."
Jeff Hawkins

Previously re: translucency:

Attending a mime's birthday party

Unveiling the hidden

Photo by Kaptain Kobold.
> read more from I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought . . .
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July 15, 2013

Restoring the Lost Sense (permalink)
I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
—Emily Dickinson (our 21st cousin)

Dear cousin Emily, who wrote poetry like nobody's business, surely would have retched at this illustration from The Quiver, 1884, involving a non-nobody.  The caption reads, "'You are not a nobody now,' she said."
[Inexplicable images from generations ago invite us to restore the lost sense of immediacy.  We follow the founder of the Theater of Spontaneity, Jacob Moreno, who proposed stringing together "now and then flashes" to unfetter illusion and let imagination run free.  The images we have collected for this series came at a tremendous price, which we explained previously.]
> read more from Restoring the Lost Sense . . .
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Restoring the Lost Sense (permalink)
Boxing is generally considered an extremely macho sport, but few people realize every boxing match is overseen by fairies.  An illustration from an 1860 issue of Punch magazine.
[Inexplicable images from generations ago invite us to restore the lost sense of immediacy.  We follow the founder of the Theater of Spontaneity, Jacob Moreno, who proposed stringing together "now and then flashes" to unfetter illusion and let imagination run free.  The images we have collected for this series came at a tremendous price, which we explained previously.]
> read more from Restoring the Lost Sense . . .
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It's Really Happening (permalink)
"If it's really happening, a series of things is going to happen."
Jim Moorhead, The Instant Survivor: Right Ways to Respond When Things Go Wrong (2012)

Domino spiral image by FracturedPixel.  The foreground of this collage is from the extraordinarily brilliant comedy series Arrested Development.
> read more from It's Really Happening . . .
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July 14, 2013

Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? (permalink)
A woman named Lauren Ibsen Dolores serves as a placeholder at Latin festivals.
> read more from Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? . . .
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Restoring the Lost Sense (permalink)
An illustration by Raphael Kirchner from a 1916 issue of Puck magazine.
[Inexplicable images from generations ago invite us to restore the lost sense of immediacy.  We follow the founder of the Theater of Spontaneity, Jacob Moreno, who proposed stringing together "now and then flashes" to unfetter illusion and let imagination run free.  The images we have collected for this series came at a tremendous price, which we explained previously.]
> read more from Restoring the Lost Sense . . .
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Always Remember (permalink)

Photo by Jason Scragz.
"No matter what the world or people tell you about yourself, always remember that you are a delicate yet hardy flower."
Iyanla Vanzant, Don't Give It Away! (1999)
> read more from Always Remember . . .
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July 13, 2013

The Right Word (permalink)
Here's a bit of flapdoodle and blatherskite from the classic sitcom Bewitched.
> read more from The Right Word . . .
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Precursors (permalink)
Here's a precursor to Marc Davis' concept sketches of carousing ghosts for Disneyland's Haunted Mansion.  We find it in a 1906 issue of Puck magazine.
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Oldest Tricks in the Book (permalink)
Show the money.

"It's the oldest trick in the book but it still works.  If you want to offer $40 for a $50 item, flashing a couple of twenties might persuade the owner to see things your way."
—Stephen Pollan & Mark Levine, The Die Broke Complete Book of Money (2012)

Photo by Krug6.
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July 12, 2013

Rhetorical Questions, Answered! (permalink)
Q: "Why should I not think the best of those who are kind to me?" (The Quiver, 1881).

A: "The problem with kindness, for Nabokov, is that most visible or public forms of it are fake" (Will Norman & Duncan White, Transitional Nabokov, 2009).

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Precursors (permalink)
One hundred and five years before Net Nanny parental control software: "If there were some means, now, of filtering children's eyes—!" (The Quiver, 1890).

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This May Surprise You (permalink)
"Shrews can be studied in the wild and under captive conditions and you may be quite surprised at what you discover."
Charles Edmund Roth, The Wildlife Observer's Guidebook (1982)
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July 11, 2013

Precursors (permalink)
Here's a precursor to the Orwellian NSA's rampant violations of civil liberties, from The Quiver, 1892.  The caption reads, "He could watch every word she wrote."
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Restoring the Lost Sense (permalink)
The mumbo jumbo of a Papal Bull: an illustration from an 1860 issue of Punch magazine.
[Inexplicable images from generations ago invite us to restore the lost sense of immediacy.  We follow the founder of the Theater of Spontaneity, Jacob Moreno, who proposed stringing together "now and then flashes" to unfetter illusion and let imagination run free.  The images we have collected for this series came at a tremendous price, which we explained previously.]
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Neither Saint- Nor Sophist-Led (permalink)
"Sancta Nicotina Consolatrix: the poor man's friend."  An illustration from an 1869 issue of Punch magazine.
Who is your favorite imaginary saint?  Do share!
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July 10, 2013

Restoring the Lost Sense (permalink)
"'Can't you,' she said, 'even produce a Scotch ancestor?"  From The Leisure Hour, 1895.

We explain how to produce any ancestor of your choosing in our book Heirs to the Queen of Hearts: Tracing Magical Genealogy.

[Inexplicable images from generations ago invite us to restore the lost sense of immediacy.  We follow the founder of the Theater of Spontaneity, Jacob Moreno, who proposed stringing together "now and then flashes" to unfetter illusion and let imagination run free.  The images we have collected for this series came at a tremendous price, which we explained previously.]
> read more from Restoring the Lost Sense . . .
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Precursors (permalink)
The classic Bewitched episode "Solid Gold Mother-in-Law" offers a precursor to the Seinfeld episode "The Pony Remark."
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July 9, 2013

Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? (permalink)
Jonathan Caws-Elwitt dreamed up a vintage Punch-style cartoon.  An amateur botanist exclaims, "Why, it's Campanula rapunculus."  The plant answers, "You have the advantage of me, sir."
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Did You Hear the One I Just Made Up? (permalink)
As Gary Barwin has noted, "words are happy out of context," just as people are happy to get away from it all.  Yet there's a price to be paid: words experience post-decontextualization blues.  Time out of context is supposed to revive and refresh, but sometimes the opposite is true.  Words with post-decontextualization blues feel disappointed, angry, and even depressed.  Instead of feeling rested, these words are exhausted and often feel they need another decontextualization.  Etymologists maintain that unmet expectations often account for a word's post-decontextualization blues.  Words often acquire their unrealistic expectations from promotional literature.  Brochures make every decontextualization seem wonderfully outside reality.  Visiting relative pronouns can also cause stress due to a lack of peace and quiet.  Grammarians suggest returning from a decontextualization on a Friday so that words have Saturday and Sunday to decompress and readjust.
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Restoring the Lost Sense (permalink)
Traditionally, a falling star is considered an inauspicious omen.  To propose marriage during a meteor shower is surely tempting fate.

This image appeared in Punch, 1866, two weeks after a dramatic Leonid meteor shower (with reports of a stunning 2000 to 5000 meteors per hour).
[Inexplicable images from generations ago invite us to restore the lost sense of immediacy.  We follow the founder of the Theater of Spontaneity, Jacob Moreno, who proposed stringing together "now and then flashes" to unfetter illusion and let imagination run free.  The images we have collected for this series came at a tremendous price, which we explained previously.]
> read more from Restoring the Lost Sense . . .
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July 8, 2013

Precursors (permalink)
We found precursors to "Modern parents [who] heap so much praise on their children that they are creating a 'smug generation' with little idea of the real world" (Barry Wigmore, Daily Mail).  A baby is proclaimed "king" in The Quiver (1877), a child is nicknamed "the president" in The Leisure Hour (1858), and an extraordinary and brilliant future is predicted for "a creature so amazing" in The Quiver, 1874.
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Someone Should Write a Book on ... (permalink)
Someone should write a lurid paperback entitled Somebody Else's Honeysuckle.

(Thanks to Michael and Jonathan, who worked in tandem on this one.)

Photo of honeysuckle blossoms and maple leaves courtesy of Charles Haynes.
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This May Surprise You (permalink)
"Quite surprisingly, the idea that there may be a human 'essence' after all, even if it is not cultural but genetic, is seen as somehow 'liberating.'"
Andreas Höfele & Stephan Laqué, Humankinds: The Renaissance and Its Anthropologies (2011)
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July 7, 2013

Precursors (permalink)
Twenty-eight years before Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, we find a Potter and a non-wizardly Muggins in Carry On Camping (1969).
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Everybody's Doing This Now (permalink)
An illustration from an 1852 issue of Punch magazine.
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A Rose is a ... (permalink)
"Well, a rose is also a noun."
German For Dummies

The word rose by chrisinplymouth.
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July 6, 2013

Precursors (permalink)
The "greenhouse effect" was coined in 1992, but the carbon devil was causing nightmares all the way back in 1918, in the Illustrated World.
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Restoring the Lost Sense (permalink)
An illustration from an 1853 issue of Punch magazine.
[Inexplicable images from generations ago invite us to restore the lost sense of immediacy.  We follow the founder of the Theater of Spontaneity, Jacob Moreno, who proposed stringing together "now and then flashes" to unfetter illusion and let imagination run free.  The images we have collected for this series came at a tremendous price, which we explained previously.]
> read more from Restoring the Lost Sense . . .
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The Right Word (permalink)
Poluphlosboiothalasses!  (From Punch, 1859.)
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July 5, 2013

Precursors (permalink)
Here's a precursor to T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets (1943):

We shall not cease from exploration 
And the end of all our exploring 
Will be to arrive where we started 
And know the place for the first time.

The caption of this illustration from The Quiver (1886) reads, "Again at the old place I stand."

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Forgotten Wisdom (permalink)
From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook:

 
Jonathan Caws-Elwitt explains: "Hope asserts in passing that 'there are generally two ways anywhere'—which might be a dull observation if it were strictly a metaphor, but which in context he means literally (if perhaps not only literally). So, yes, there are generally not three, not one, but exactly two ways to get from a given point A to a given point B on the map" (personal correspondence, May 1, 2013).

The Anthony Hope quotation appears in Frivolous Cupid.
Printed collections of Forgotten Wisdom diagrams are available: Volume I from Mindful Greetings and Volumes II, III and IV from Amazon.  Selected posters are also available via Zazzle.
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This May Surprise You (permalink)
"If you've never made a personal balance sheet before, you may be quite surprised at your net worth."
Brian R. Smith, How to Prosper in Your Own Business (1983)
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July 4, 2013

Precursors (permalink)
A 1993 advertisement for the Camero convertible invited readers to imagine "an entire nation without rhythm."  But Arthur's Home Magazine had already depicted such a vision all the way back in 1866.  A "young America" is shown needing help with his drumming.
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I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought (permalink)
"I'm afraid ... the more absences there are, the more things are possible.  And so if there's an absence the size of God, then there probably isn't anything so appalling that we can count on not meeting it." —Tim Powers, The Stress of Her Regard (the astonishing secret history of the tragic lives of the Romantics)
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Forgotten Wisdom (permalink)
From Prof. Oddfellow's sketchbook:

Inspired by and for Jeff Hawkins.  The caption reads: "As early as the 16th century, many eminent people correctly believed that the tip of the iceberg is made of lettuce.  Fun fact: Like snowflakes, no two croutons are alike."
Printed collections of Forgotten Wisdom diagrams are available: Volume I from Mindful Greetings and Volumes II, III and IV from Amazon.  Selected posters are also available via Zazzle.
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July 3, 2013

Images Moving Through Time (permalink)
She's been "waiting and watching" a long time, indeed. To date, she's been vigilant for:



May her unflagging alertness be a source of comfort, an example to us all.

From The Quiver, 1886.
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Precursors (permalink)
The (seemingly improbable) fourth side of a triangle, identified in this comic panel from Punch (1871), wasn't officially measured until 1993 by the University of Adelaide's B. F. Sherman (Mathematics Magazine, Vol. 66, No. 5).

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I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought (permalink)
One hundred years ago today, on July 3, 1913, Uncle Sam came out as a cross-dresser in LIFE magazine.

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July 2, 2013

Rhetorical Questions, Answered! (permalink)
Q: Why didn't Rilke just write, "Consider your life sacred. Consider all other lives sacred."  Why did he have to be such an asshole? (asks William Keckler)

A: "Rilke was distressed because he could not find an adequate German word for 'palm of hand.'"  [He rejected Handfläche, flats of the hand, and the archaic Handteller, hollow of the hand.]  (André Gide via Beckett via Mark Nixon.)

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Everybody's Doing This Now (permalink)
An illustration from an 1860 issue of Punch magazine.
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Puzzles and Games (permalink)
This curious set of cards appears in Puck magazine, 1878.  The symbols (left to right, top to bottom):
  1. Maiden (a love interest)
  2. Gaslight (burned until exceedingly late at night)
  3. Darkness (i.e. the gaslight after being put out) and dreaming
  4. Heart (naive love; woefulness)
  5. Hand sign (a "terrible oath," i.e. a reckless promise)
  6. Hand sign (a second "terrible oath")
  7. Dust (the foot of someone off to parts unknown)
  8. Blank (absence, emptiness)
  9. Clock ("the early and proper hour")
The deck also includes a Gentleman card, but it wasn't printed.  The explanation: "We don't give his portrait, 'cause he had red hair and it might hurt the paper."
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July 1, 2013

I Found a Penny Today, So Here's a Thought (permalink)

"I don't think you should ever appear as content in a format that you don't understand.  It seems like it's asking for trouble": a still from a bonus interview in Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle.
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Restoring the Lost Sense (permalink)
Feast and famine, windfall and shortfall, prosperity and hardship, abundance and scarcity: a twofold wheat spirit from Punch, 1868.
[Inexplicable images from generations ago invite us to restore the lost sense of immediacy.  We follow the founder of the Theater of Spontaneity, Jacob Moreno, who proposed stringing together "now and then flashes" to unfetter illusion and let imagination run free.  The images we have collected for this series came at a tremendous price, which we explained previously.]
> read more from Restoring the Lost Sense . . .
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A Fine Line Between... (permalink)
"There is only a fine line between dream and reality, one often effaced in ordinary experience."
Michael Saler, As If: Modern Enchantment and the Literary Prehistory of Virtual Reality (2012)

A printed collection of A Fine Line Between... is now available from Amazon.com.
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Original Content Copyright © 2017 by Craig Conley. All rights reserved.